The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Where do those foolish, wretched, and sinful men go, O chief of men, that steal or misappropriate such articles as belong to Brahmanas?'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall, in this connection, O Bharata, recite to thee the old narrative of a conversation between a Chandala and a low Kshatriya.' 2
"The person of the royal order said, 'Thou seemest, O Chandala, to be old in years, but thy conduct seems to be like that of a boy! Thy body is besmeared with the dust raised by dogs and asses, but without minding that dust thou art anxious about the little drops of vine milk that have fallen upon thy body! It is plain that such acts as are censured by the pious are ordained for the Chandala. Why, indeed, dost thou seek to wash off the spots of milk from thy body?' 3
"The Chandala said, 'Formerly, O king, certain kine belonging to Brahmana were stolen. While they were being carried away, some milk from their udders fell upon a number of Soma plants that grew by the roadside. Those Brahmanas that drank the juice of the plants thus bedewed with milk, as also the king who performed the sacrifice in which that Soma was drunk, had to sink in hell. Indeed, for having thus
appropriated some thing that had belonged to a Brahmana, the king with all the Brahmanas that had assisted him had to go to hell. All those men also, Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, that drank milk or ghee or curds, in the palace of the king who had stolen the Brahmana's kine, had to fall into hell. The stolen kine also, shaking their bodies, slew with their milk the sons and grandsons of those that had stolen them, as also the king and the queen although the latter treated the animals with great care and attention. As regards myself, O king, I used to live in the observance of the vow of Brahmacharya in that place where these kine were placed after they had been stolen away. The food I had obtained by begging became sprinkled over with the milk of those kine. Having taken that food, O thou of the royal order, I have, in this life, become a Chandala. The king who had stolen the kine belonging to a Brahmana obtained an infamous end. Hence, one should never steal or appropriate anything that belongs to a Brahmana. Behold to what state I am reduced in consequence of my having eaten food that had been sprinkled over with milk belonging to a Brahmana! It is for this reason that Soma plants become unsaleable by a person possessed of wisdom. They who sell the Soma plant are censured by the wise. Indeed, O son, they who purchase Soma and they who sell it, both sink in the hell called Raurava when, departing from this world, they repair to the region of Yama. That man who, possessing a knowledge of the Vedas, duly sells Soma, becomes in his next life a usurer and quickly meets with destruction. For three hundred times he has to sink into hell and become transformed into an animal that subsists upon human ordure. Serving a person that is vile and low, pride, and rape upon a friend's wife, if weighed against one another in a balance, would show that pride, which transcends all restraints, is the heaviest. Behold this dog, so sinful and disagreeably pale and lean! (He was a human being in his former life). It is through pride that living creatures attain to such a miserable end. As regards myself, I was born in a large family, in a former birth of mine. O lord, and I was a thorough master of all branches of knowledge and all the sciences. I knew the gravity of all these faults, but influenced by pride, I became blinded and ate the meat attached to the vertebral columns of animals. In consequence of such conduct and such food, I have come to this state. Behold the reverses brought about by Time! Like a person whose cloth has taken fire at one end, or who is pursued by bees, behold, I am running, penetrated with fear, and smeared with dust! They that lead the domestic mode of life are rescued from all sins by a study of the Vedas, as also by gifts of other kinds, as declared by the wise. 1 O thou of the royal order, a Brahmana that is sinful in conduct, becomes rescued from all his sins by the study of the Vedas if he betakes himself to the forest mode of life and abstains from attachment of every kind. O chief of Kshatriyas, I am in
this life, born in a sinful older! I fail to see clearly how I may succeed in cleansing myself from all sins. In consequence of some meritorious act of a former life, I have not lost the memory of my previous lives. O king, I throw myself on the mercy! I ask thee! Do thou resolve my doubt. By what auspicious course of conduct should I wish to achieve my emancipation? O foremost of men, by what means shall I succeed in getting rid of my status as a Chandala?'
"The person of the royal order said, 'Know, O Chandala, the means by which thou mayst be able to attain to emancipation. By casting off thy life-breaths for the sake of a Brahmana thou mayst attain a desirable end! By throwing thy body on the fire of battle as a libation to the beasts and birds of prey for the sake of a Brahmana, indeed, by casting off thy life-breaths thus, thou mayst achieve emancipation! By no other means wilt thou succeed in achieving it!'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed, that Chandala, O scorcher of foes, poured his life-breaths as a libation on the fire of battle for the sake of protecting a Brahmana's wealth and as the consequence of that act attained to a very desirable end. Hence, O son, thou shouldst always protect the property of the Brahmanas, if, O chief of Bharata's race, thou desirest, O thou of mighty arms, an end that is eternal felicity!'"
184:2 'Kshatrabandhu' implies a low or vile Kshatriya.
184:3 Literally, 'Why dost thou dip such parts of thy body into a pond of water?'
185:1 The study of the Vedas is regarded as equivalent in merit of gifts. Hence actual gifts of articles are spoken of as 'gifts of other kinds.'
Next: Section CII